Friday, February 27, 2009

On Atheist Watch today

An article on atheist watch "when Atheists call Religion Superstition." See how the concept that religion is superstitious really goes back to the English Churchmen known as "latitudinarians" and they mistake they made in promoting Newtonian science.

On Atheist Watch

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bergman's Trhough A Glass Darkley.


Through a Glass Darkly is is the first of Bergman's Trilogy, the other two parts being Winter Light, and The Silence. Even Bergman put a great deal of time and effort into these three films and considered them seminal for his film effort, none of them turned out to be his greatest films. like Filini's Eight and A half, Through a Glass Darkly is boning, hard to watch and tedious, but at the end in the final scene it all comes together in a cumulative effect; you suddenly realized you have struggled through to find that it is a great film after all and you feel proud of yourself for making the effort. The title refers to St. Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians "though we see through a glass darkly, when that which is perfect is come I will know even as I am known, face to face." The reference is to a mirror in the ancient world. They did not have good mirrors and one could not get a good image of one's own face. The idea of Bergman's film is subtle psychological implication about knowing first ourselves, then others, finally reality itself and even God. God is all over the film but in a subtle way. Bergman was an atheist, but since his father was a minister and spiritual adviser to the Queen of Sweden he could never let go of the question of God. Bergman rebelled against his father's faith as a young man, as a middle film maker he showed a lot more sympathy for the question of belief than a lot of atheists I find on the internet.

Bergman first made a name for himself as a young directing coming of theater in the late 40s. His films were not popular and he was known as one of the "angry young men," the group of artists in Europe who challenged convention and took up early counter culture themes. Through a Glass Darkly is a change for Bergman. He went with a new look as he was not able to work with his usual cinematographer, Gunnar Fischer. It was Fischer who gave Bergman's films their look, the look for which art films of that era are constantly mocked and parodied; one candle power wroth of light and brooding figures in black playing chess. On this project Bergman was forced to go with Sven Nykvist. Nykvist prefered natural light. The movie is much brighter than previous Bergman movies, lots of out door scenes and nice windows. This is sense light flooding the inner chambers reinforces the themes of psychological searching.

Harriet Andersson (Karin),
Gunnar Björnstrand (David--the father)


The film describes 24 hours in the life of a family on an isolated island in the Baltic where they spend their summer holidays. The family consists of four people: the father, an author (Gunnar Björnstrand), his adolescent son (Lars Passgård), his daughter (Harriet Andersson), and her husband (Max von Sydow). The daughter is the central figure—she is a latent schizophrenic, and her father, her husband, and her brother are involved in and share her fate each in his own way.

At the center of the family is the father (David). He is a loved and revered figure but hardly has time for his family. He's always absent. The inadequacy of his Fatherly devotion is illustrated in his pathetic attempt to give gifts early in the film. They are dining outside and the subject of his absence comes up. To take their minds off it he distributes his gifts which he bought for them on the last trip. But as he goes inside for something, his camera, we find that the gifts are woefully inadequate, one has the thing given, one is given something the was given last time, one is given something trivial. But as we move inside to what the father is doing we find he is weeping profusely. He then spreads his arms wide apart, his silhouette lit by the window and his body forming a cross. From this we have a subtle religious image and our first hint that something is up psychologically with the character.

After dinner the sun Minus (pronounced Meen-noes) and the sister Karin put on a little play that Minus wrote. It centers on a conflict between perfect decimation to one's art vs the need to live life. A prince is confronted by a ghost of a queen who offers him eternal life if he will agree to die and be entombed with her that night. He at fist affirms the greatness of the choice, since romantic love is his art from and his art is much more important than life. Then he parades through string of excuses and finally backs out. This represents the conflict in all of Bergman's films between true artistic devotion and the need to compromise with life.

The father wishes to be a great writer. He is a doctor but he writes novels. Early in the morning the daughter rises and goes secretly to an old abandoned room. The walls and gritty the book floor ever old and musty, there is nothing in the room but a chair and the floor is uneven and warped. The girl presses tightly against the wall and talks to someone who is not there. Then she goes to her father's room and reads is diary. We find out latter that a voice told her to do this. Her father has written about her conditions, which is hopeless. We are not really told what her problem is but it's some form of degenerative disease that results in insanity and death. She knew she was sick and had been in a mental institution before. In her father's diary, however, she sees that he conditions is hopeless. What really disturbs
her is that her father written some absurd statement about recording her reactions to the disease and how me might contribute to medical science if he studied her demise. She of course reacts with horror as though he is only concerned with her an organism to study.

We find out in a latter conversation that the father is extremely repentant about ever having written this. The son in law (Martin) confronts him and tells he he has always arrogant and cold toward his children. David tells Martin, and us< that he knows this but recently has undergone change which he can't expalin and now only seeks to be there for his family. Meanwhile throughout the movie the son Minus voices the usual adolescent sense of failure and hopelessness at feeling so unattractive to the opposite sex, his sister seems to have an incestuous fixation and is always hanging on him and kissing him (which he hates of course). All of this underscores the theme voiced by Minus that we seek to know the ultimate truth, we seek the basic meaning of life and the sense of validation all the time. That validation he wants to find in the relationship with his father. He expresses the thought "if only I could really talk to father, I wish Papa would talk to me."

In the end Karin tells Martin that she goes "behind the wall" in the abandoned room where strange people are waiting there for God. This makes her feel calm and happy and she will be allowed to wait in that room for God to come. She goes into the abandoned room and seems in rapture waiting for God. She has already exhibited ear marks of break down so they have summoned the care flight. We see the example of Sweden's wonderful universal medical care system, their socialized medicine, the best int he world. The care flight comes the vibrations of the helicopter cause the closet door to open by itself (it was not latched). Karin totally freaks out. He just goes hysterical. We find out soon enough that in her delusional state she saw the "god" who turned out to be a giant spider who tried to climb inside her.

In the final scene at the end of the day, Karin and Martin are gone and the father and son are there alone. They begin to talk and the father tells him his theory of God. He has come to see by means of a revelatory experince that God is love; this includes all forms of love. Any kind of love that is pure love is God. As they discuss this concept the father says good night and goes to his women the son looks astonished and says "Papa talked to me!" Of course we should probably understand that more than just the earthly father is hinted at here.

Through A Glass Darkly is not as fun to watch as Bergman's great films, The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries (my two favorite movies) or the Virgin Spring But I do recommend it. I think it's important because is illustrates how the question of God's existence can be carried on by an atheist and how one can bring a kind of answer to solution that is not anti-religious while not embracing a religious tradition or even a theology. While fundamentalists might scough at his as counterfeit of truth, and certainly I would not present it as my credo at seminary I see it as hopeful becasue it demonstrates that even in a secular society and among atheist types people still think about God and find answers that at least set them in the right direction.

Argument from Temporal Begining

Argument from Temporal Begining.

A. loigc of the argument.

1) Time has a begining.

2) There is no causality or sequential order beyond time.

3) Therefore, no change beyond time is possible.

4) The putative state of affiars beyond time is one of timlessness.
5) Therefore, time should never have come to be.

6) We know that time did come to be, therefore, it must have been created by something capable of writing and circumventing the rules.

7) Only God would be capable of writting and circumventing the rules of time and eternity, therefore, God must exit.

B Version of argument

We need a B version because begining of time is assumed with singularity models of Big Bang, and those are out of fashion now (at least with atheitss on Message boards): Advanced physics theory posits "beyond time" in which super symetry theory is applied to grand unified theory, but "beyond" still posits a timeless state of nothingness in which nothing can happen and no change can take place.

B. Analysis.

God must exist in order to rewrite the rules or to circumvent the rules of temporality. Now some argue that from a timeless perspective the space/time bubble in which our universe exists would also be. That may be true, and the beginning and the end of our universe would always be as well. Causality, or source may be hierarchical as well as linear

C. Objections:

1) Time is an illusion.

Some atheists have tried to answer this by using Relativity theory to argue that time is an illusion, its relative, get it? But Relativity doesn't say there is no time. It merely says that the observation of time is relative.

2) Some other freaky theory of time.

Answer: Some have tried to argue that t=0 (time has a begining) is wrong. It could be t=>0. This is similar to xeno's paradox, in that it segments time into infetessemals so that it gives the illusion of no time, no motion, or perhaps infinite time. But that "infinity" of time could be hidding in a Plank interval, so and that would not do anything to the basic hypothesis. From the Cosmological argument (no.II) I quote physicists saying that t=0 is still the best way to think about it. Three major sources document this. Freasure in Time the Familaure Stranger (one of the major authorities on Time research), Paul Davies in God and The New Physics and in the Book Time's Arrow All agree that beyond time there is no motion, causality, or change. More documentation time begins with Big Bang:

Sten Olenwald
NASA Scientist


No time "before" BB.

In the quantum world...the world that the universe inhabited when it was less than a second old...many things work very differently. One of these is that time itself does not mean quite the same thing as it does to us in the world- at-large. Although we have no complete theory of the relevant physics, there are many indications from the mathematics that yield sound experimental results, that time itself may have ceased to have much meaning near the Big Bang event. This means that there was no 'time' as we know this concept 'before' the Big Bang. That being the case, the question of what happened before the Big Bang is now a question without any possible physical answer. The evolution of the universe has always been a process of transformation from one state to the next as the universe has expanded. At some point in this process, looking back at the Big Bang, we enter a state so removed from any that we now know, than even the laws that govern it become totally obscure to science itself. In the quantum world, we see things 'appearing' out of nothing all the time. The universe may have done the same thing. What this means to us may never be fully understood.

"As we shall see, the concept of time has no meaning before the beginning of the universe. This was first pointed out by St. Augustine. When asked: What did God do before he created the universe? Augustine didn't reply: He was preparing Hell for people who asked such questions. Instead, he said that time was a property of the universe that God created, and that time did not exist before the beginning of the universe. [Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1988), p. 8]

astronmy cafe

Odenwald, 2004

Was there really no time at all before the Big Bang?

As I have mentioned in a previous question, we do not know what the state of the universe was like at the Big Bang and beyond.

Our best guess at this time suggest that time and space as we know these concepts will become rather meaningless as the universe enters a purely quantum mechanical state of indeterminacy. Cosmologists such as Stephen Hawking suggest that the dimension of time is transformed via quantum fluctuations in the so-called "signature of the spacetime metric", into a space-like coordinate so that instead of 3-space and 1-time dimension, space-time becomes a 4-dimensional space devoid of any time-like features. What this state is imagined to be is anyone's guess because as humans trained to think in terms of processes evolving in time, our next question would then be, What came before the Hawking space-like state? There is no possible answer to this question because there is no time in which the concept of 'before' can be said to have a meaning. The question itself becomes the wrong question to ask.

Phyical law opporates in time

Cambridge Relativity and Quantum Gravity

1996, University of Cambridge The physical laws that govern the universe prescribe how an initial state evolves with time. In classical physics, if the initial state of a system is specified exactly then the subsequent motion will be completely predictable.

Even assuming no begining of Time, Susy Gut theory still postulates a "beyond time" as a putative state of affairs. This description confirms my argument since it describes a state in which no change can ever come to be. That leaves the scientific solution still seeking some higher set of coordinates upon which the universe must be contingent:

Sten OdenwaldBeyond the Big Bang.

Copyright (C) 1987, Kalmbach Publishing

"Theories like those of SUSY GUTS (Supersymetry Grand Unified Theory) and Superstrings seem to suggest that just a few moments after Creation, the laws of physics and the content of the world were in a highly symmetric state; one superforce and perhaps one kind of superparticle. The only thing breaking the perfect symmetry of this era was the definite direction and character of the dimension called Time. Before Creation, the primordial symmetry may have been so perfect that, as Vilenkin proposed, the dimensionality of space was itself undefined. To describe this state is a daunting challenge in semantics and mathematics because the mathematical act of specifying its dimensionality would have implied the selection of one possibility from all others and thereby breaking the perfect symmetry of this state. There were, presumably, no particles of matter or even photons of light then, because these particles were born from the vacuum fluctuations in the fabric of spacetime that attended the creation of the universe. In such a world, nothing happens because all 'happenings' take place within the reference frame of time and space. The presence of a single particle in this nothingness would have instantaneously broken the perfect symmetry of this era because there would then have been a favored point in space different from all others; the point occupied by the particle. This nothingness didn't evolve either, because evolution is a time-ordered process. The introduction of time as a favored coordinate would have broken the symmetry too. It would seem that the 'Trans-Creation' state is beyond conventional description because any words we may choose to describe it are inherently laced with the conceptual baggage of time and space. Heinz Pagels reflects on this 'earliest' stage by saying, "The nothingness 'before' the creation of the universe is the most complete void we can imagine. No space, time or matter existed. It is a world without place, without duration or eternity..."

3)How could God create beyond time?

Answer(s) William Lane Craig's answer is that God creates everything in one thorw, so time is created at exactly the same time that God desires to create. That might be worked out as an asnwer, but it strikes me as still requiring a seqeuntial order. My own personal answer is that I accept Bishop Berkely's notion that we are thoughts in the mind of God. Thus, while the naturalistic assumption is that there is a "beyond time" and this is concieved as a giant room filled with non-time (and the space/time bubble like a beach ball floating around in that room--or say a beach ball in the ocean of non-time) that is purely a naturalitstic assumption. We have no idea what is beyond the BB. Thus, I posit the notion that physical reality is in the mind of God. God is like the Platonic forms in that he is in an abstract reality which has no physical locus, and thus is "everywhere and nowhere." So in that case there is no "beyond time" there is only the mind of God. That is a world of the mind, thus it does contain causality, but no temproal progress, it is controlled by the "thoughts" of God. Thus the problem of causality beyond time is solved, but this only works if one believes in God.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Trnasendental Signifier Argument


(1)Transcendental Signifier (TS):

The signification mark (word) which refer to the top of metaphysical hierarchy; the organizing principle which makes sense of all sense data and groups it into a meaningful and coherent whole, through which meaning can be understood.The corollary, the thing the Transcendental Signifier signifies, is the "Transcendental Signified (designated as TSed)"

(2) Signifier:

The term used of written words in the linguistic theories know as "structuralism" and in the theories of French Linguist Ferdenand Sassure. A signifer is a "marK," that is writing, which designates a concept forming a word, that which points to an object as the thing that it is and no other. ie, a physical tree is the signified, the object of the signifier "t-r-e-e."

Preliminary Observations:

(1) Any rational, coherent and meaningful view of the universe must of necessity presuppose an organizing principle which makes sense of the universe and explains the hierarchy of conceptualization.

(2) Organizing principles are summed up in a single first principle which grounds any sort of metaphysical hierarchy, the Transcendental Signifier (TS)

(3) It is impossible to do without a Transcendental Signifier, all attempts to do so have ended in the re-establishment of a new TS. This is because we cannot organize the universe without a principle of organizing.

(4)TS functions Uniquely as Top of The Metaphysical Hierarchy.It's function is mutually exclusive.


P1) TS's function is mutually exclusive, no other principle can superceed that of the TS since it alone grounds all principles and bestows meaning through organization of concepts.

P2)We have no choice but to assume the reality of some form of TSed since we cannot function coherently without a TSP

3) We have no choice but to assume the reality of some form of TSed since the universe does seem to fall into line with the meaning we bestow upon it.

P4) The logical conclusion would be that There must be a TSed which actually creates and organizes the Universe.

P5) The signifier "God" is one version of the TS, that is to say, God functions in the divine economy exactly as the TS functions in a metaphysical hierarchy.

P6) Since "God" is a version of the TS, and since TS and God concept share a unique function which should be mutually exclusive, the logical conclusion is that: God and TS share "God" concept is discretion of the Transcendental Signified.

P7)Since the TS should be assumed as real, and TS and God share identity, we should assume that God is the Transcendental Signified, and thus is an actual reality.rational warrant for belief in God's existence, QED..

It was my hope that this argument would suffice as a Postmodern update of the Ontological argument. I wont go into all the reason why I consider it to be an ontological argument. My only concern here is, do I have a decent idea here, or has it been so long since I studied Derrida that I've forgotten everything?

Like most of my arguments in recent years it turns on the notion of identity, linking God to some aspect of reality that we know or must agree exists, and then demonstrating mutual identity in a manner that is mutually exclusive; such that to share quality x is to share identity. But since we don't have an already proven God to compare it to, I'm comparing a god concept to this quality. I feel like that will get me in trouble. It must be the violation of some formal fallacy or other, but it seems logical and I've thought about it from any stand points. In that sense it's like saying X fits the description of Y so X must be Y. Yet, that is not necessarily a valid conclusion, the mediating point is; if and only if the qualities of the description are mutually exclusive.

I'll take up more about this after lunch.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mind Transcends Brain

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

My version of the cosmological argument steers is way around the need to defend direct causality of the universe with the idea that all existing things that we observe have ontologically prior conditions. For example, the universe itself stems from a confluence of space, time, gravitational field, energy. All of this is has an ontologically prior condition in the singularity. I say “ontologically prior” because there is no time beyond event horizon, thus there is no “before” before the big bang. But ontologically prior doesn’t mean that came “before” chronologically. Time begins in the very same increment of nano second with the things that are contingent upon, but they are no less contingent. Take the example of the eternal flute player. As long as the player plays eternally the music is eternal. But if the player were to stop the music would cease. Thus the music is both eternal and contingent. This illustrates the idea that a contingency can be contingent upon a necessity that that does not come before it in time, but the necessity is ontologically prior.

I advance the argument that we have no examples of anything that is not contingent upon an ontologically prior condition. Everything we see in this life. From swizzle sticks to pigs, form dirt to salad cream, from dollars to donuts is contingent. Thus it is the power of inductive reasoning that forces us to accept the concept of a contingent universe, We have no examples, not one, of anything to the contrary. One must fly in the face of all experience of all humans in all of life to argue that we don’t need to assume any sort of ontological priority for naturalistic phenomena. Atheists have, however, turned the tables. They advance the argument that we never observe any form of mind or consciousness apart from brain. Thus, by the same force of inductive evidence that forces us to assume ontologically prior conditions to the universe, we should also assume that minds do not occur without brains. This would mean that God must be the product of a biology, or here cannot be a God possessed of consciousness, will, or volition.

While this seems like a reasonable “turn about is fair play” sort of argument on the surface, rendering Theistic objects as special pleading, it is actually a black-is-white-slide argument on the part of the atheist. This is so because the two cases are really not analogous even though they appear to be at first glance. First, there is nothing to compare to God We can say “we never see anything that is not contingent upon something else in this life, but we cannot say “we never see anything else that is like God, because we never see God, nor can we expect anything to be like God. God is not only unique, but God is beyond any scale of understanding we could produce. There is nothing we can compare to God. Thus, it is not a fair statement “we never see anything like God.” Of course we don’t, God is off scale. That may sound like special pleading but to say otherwise is merely a category mistake. One is trying to hold the absolute necessity the standards of all contingent being. The atheist is merely denying the fact that the two cases, God and naturalistic phenomena are totally different things, they are in different logically categories and one cannot be held in comparison to the to the other.

Moreover, the ontological priority of naturalistic necessities is much more fundamental in our field of experience than is consciousness. While it is true that everything we see in this life, every single physical object and everything we know about, anything and every thing that can be observed or quantified or even theorized based upon its effects upon other physical phenomena, is contingent, we do not know if it is true that minds are only found in connection with brains. That is begging the question, because the argument is made that consciousness is not merely the product of brain chemistry but is actually a basic property of nature, and is produced by the level of complexity in a system. Thus the atheist is imposing functionalistic assumptions based upon a materialist ideology, rather than appealing to any sort of actual observation we really make in the world. We do not know if we only observe consciousness as a product of brain chemistry because if it is a property of nature then we may be seeing it at work in everything. There is a school of thought that says nature is “ground up.” If that is the case it means that rocks and trees have a certain level of consciousness, presumably very low for rocks, because consciousness is a basic property. If this view is true, consciousness is like the electromagnetic spectrum; its in everything, you can’t see it, you can’t compare it to anything. The EM spectrum includes a lot of aspect that we cannot observe directly. Radio waves, microwaves, ultra violet, infa red and others are also aspects of the EM spectrum. So there may be more to consciousness than just brains. I am not suggesting that trees have feelings and are capable of conversation, but if consciousness is a basic property then there’s got to be a lot more to it than we know. To just say no it’s only caused by brain chemistry and is only found in biological organisms is foolish. God is not a biological organism and thus there is no reason to exact that God would conform to the same principles. The real difference in the two cases, is that the prior condition argument and the consciousness argument is that prior conditions are something we can observe and understanding as necessary for the emergence of all physical phenomena, while we do not know the answer to the assumption being made about consciousness and presume we do is merely begging the question.

On the other hand,

there is evidence that mind can appear apart from brain.While this can’t be proven, there are some good indications.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Part 2 of my answer to Walker: Salvation and other faiths

Bon festival dance
Religious festival: Japan

What do you think would be your religious beliefs had you been born to Muslim parents in the Middle East?

This is the last part of the question that Bill Walker asks. Now he thinks that the fundie thing is all there is to Christianity, so in his mind the existence of other faiths just a priori disproves Christianity. Of course this is a false assumption because it assumes that religious beliefs are handed form on high like a memo form the "big man upstairs." Religouis traditions are based upon cultural constructs and they serve as frameworks in which religous experinces have meaning.

We experince God at the subliminal ("mystical") level: beyond word, thoguht or image. Thus to talk about them, (we have to do that becuase we are social animals) we have to load them into cultural constructs, which are langaue. So We are in a sense translating that which beyond our undersatnding and beyond langaue into langaue. To do that we have to line up the experience with metaphorical images. This is obviously be colored by the lens of culture. Thus the fact that religious faiths aer different in different cultures no more invalidates belief in god than the idea that deserts taste different, or that people like different colorerd clothing.

Waht follows is a piece on Savlations and other faiths from my web site Doxa. this has been up a long time and is one of the first things I put on the net.

Paul said "To those who through persistence seek glory, honor and imortality he will give eternal life.But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the good and follow evil there will be wrath and anger...first for the Jew and then for the gentile; but glory honor and peace for everyone who does good. For God does not show favoritism. All who sin apart from the law will perish apart form the law and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, it is those who obey the law who will be declaired righteous.

Indeed when Gentiles who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirement of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences bearing witness and their hearts now acusisng, now even defending them..." (Romans 2:7-15). New Aameircan Standard and other translations say "their hearts acusing, now excusing them..." Most Chrsitians are afraid of this conclusion and they down play this verse. Often Evangelicals will come back and say "he makes it clear in the next passage that no one can really follow the law on their hearts." Well, if they can't, than they can't. But if they can, and do, than God will excuse them. God knows the heart, we do not. The verse clearly opens the door to the possibility of salvation (although by Jesus) thorugh a de facto arravngement in which one is seeking the good without knowing the object one is seeking (Jesus). In other words, it is possible that people in other cultures who follow the moral law written on the heart know Jesus de facto even if they don't know him overtly. Paul backs up this conclusion in Acts 17:22 Paul goes to Athens as is asked by the Athenian philsophers to explain his ideas to them.

These were pagan followers of another religion. Paul stood up and said to them, "Men of Athens, I see that in every way you are very religious for as I walked around and observed your objects of worship I even found an alter with this inscription 'TO AN UNKOWN GOD' Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you."He basically says that they are worshiping God, they just don't know who he is. That's why he says "I will make it known to you." He doesn't say "you have the wrong idea completely." Most Evangelicals dismiss this as a neat rhetorical trick. But if we assume that Paul would not lie or distort his beliefs for the sake of cheap tricks, we must consider that he did not say "you are all a bunch of pagans and you are going to hell!" He essentially told them, "God is working in your culture, you do know God, but you don't know who God is. You seek him, without knowing the one you seek. He goes on,(v27)"God did this [created humanity and scattered them into different cultures] so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out and find him though he is not far form each one of us." This implies that God not only wants to work in other cultures, but that it is actually his paln to do things in this way. Perhaps through a diversity of insights we might come to know God better. Perhaps it means that through spreading the Gospel people would come to contemplate better the meaning of God's love.

In any case, it does mean that God is working in other cultures, and that God is in the hearts of all people drawing them to himself. Of their worship of idols, Paul said "in past times God overlooked such ignorance but now he commands all people everywhere to repent" (v30). Now what can this mean? God never overlooks idolotry or paganism, in the OT he's always commanding the Isralites to wipe them out and expressly forbidding idolotry. It means that on an idividual basis when God judges the hearts of people, he looks at their desire to seek him, to seek the good. That their status as individuals in a pagan culture does not negate the good they have done, and their ignorance of idolotry does not discount their desire to seek the good or the truth. IT means that they are following Jesus if they live in the moral life, even though they follow him as something unkonwn to them. IT also means that all of us should come into the turth, we should seek to know God fully, and when we do that we find that it is Jesus all along.

3) Justice of Punishment.

Jesus himself never speaks directly of hell, but always in parables. The other statements of Hell are mainly in euphamistic passages or in apocolypic passages such as the book of Revelation. But I suggest that for some crimes hell is deserved. The slaughter of innocent people, the disruption of thousands of lives, the Hitlers of the world, and those who rationalize the deeds through "following orders" deserve to suffer the consequences of their actions. Evil has consequences, and those who committ evil should suffer the consequences, and they will.I have no direct knolwege of what hell is. It is based upon the Greek mythological concept of Tartarus which got into Hebrew thinking through hellenization. There is no "hell" in the Tennach or the Pentatuch ("OT"). In the Hebrew scriptures there is only mention of Sheol, or the "the grave" to which everyone goes. But in the books of Revelation it does speak of those who work inequity being "outside the Kingdom of God." I dont' believe that hell is litteral fire and brimestone, I do believe it is some state of anxiety or seperation from God.

C. Knowing God.

Heb. 8:10-12 "...I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will a man say to his neighbor 'know the Lord' for they will all know me from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more." This passage promises a "personal religionship with God."The word for "to Know" is the Greek Term Ginosko, which means personal epirential knowledge. To give one's life to Jesus means to develop a personal religionship with Jesus. Jesus said (John) "My sheep know my voice..." Personal relitionship means that it is more than a set of rules, more than an ideology or a belief system, but a matter of the heart, the emotions, religious affections. IT may not be through dramatic miraculous effects (although I do believe that that is open to all Christians) but it is deeper than mere rule keeping, and does make for a satisfaction nothing else can match.God acts upon the heart. Salvation is a matter of "knowing God" not of mere intellectual asscent. What does it mean to know God? It means that being a Christian is a matter of experiencing God's love in the heart and of loving God and others. It is also a matter of being "led" by God through impressions upon the heart, and not merely a set of rules or a list of beliefs that one must check off. IT is the development of "religiuos affections."The excitement of knowing God is unequalied by anything else in this life.

Developing Personal Relationship with God.

A. Getting Saved.

This is very simple. God keeps it simple so all of us can do it. John tells us "...that whosoever believes on him shall be saved." (3:16). Beleif is the first step. But believe doesn't just mean intellectual asscent, it means to place our faith in him, to trust him, as said above to place ourselves into his death, to express our solidarity with him.

Paul says "...That if you confess with your mouth 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the Dead, you will be saved, for it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved....everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (Romas 10:9-12).

Note that the resurrection is stipulated as a criterion of belief, and notice that it also says believe in your heart. Belief is not mere intellecutal asscent but is a decision of the will to trust in God. Does this mean we must believe in the resurrection to be saved? It at least means we must believe in the thing the resurrection points to, the new life in Christ, that we trust God to give us this new life and that such life is found in him. Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. What does it mean to call upon the name of the Lord? It means, to place our trust in God and in Jesus as God's Son, as our savior.

B. The Name of Jesus

The name of Jesus then becomes our expression of solidarity with God, that we state clearly that we choose God's way, we want to change our lives and we are ready to accept God's terms for life; that we respond to the solidarity he shows us by committing to solidarity with him.In Acts 2: 38 the mob asks Peter what they must do, in response to the miracles of Penticost and Peter's sermon on Jesus being raised form the dead. Peter tells them "Repent, and be baptized everyone one of you in the name of Jesus Christ that your sins may be forgiven." Does this mean that baptism is a pre-requiset for salvation? I don't believe so. They were really asking a more general question than "how do I get saved." IN response to Peter's sermon they were asking in a general way "well, we curcified the Messiah, what can we do about it."

Peter tells them two things, repent (change your mind, express sorrow for sin and determine not to sin any longer) AND be baptized as an expression of surrender to God (in keeping with the Jewish custom). The key here is to repent, turn from the present course of life and follow Jesus. Baptism is something we should do. It is an expression of our faith, and a symbol that we palce our hope in God, die to the old way, it is an outward symbol of placing ourselves in solidarity with God and in Jesus death. But the important thing here is to repent. And, "you will recieve the gift of the Holy Spirit."Latter in Acts when Peter takes the Gospel to the gentiles for the first time, the house of Cornelius. He tells them (Acts 10:43)"... everyone who believes in him recieves forgiveness of sins through his name." With that the Holy Spirit comes upon them while Peter is still talking. He does not tell them to be baptized, nor does God wait for that to give the gift of the Holy Spirit (which is the renewing of the spirit, the "born again" experience and empowering for service to God). So here again the common link is belief, which implies a committment of trust.Eph 1: 13 "Having believed you were marked in him with a seal the promised Holy Spirit who is a deposit guaronteeing our inheritance unto redeemption of those who are God's possession."Romas 5 "since we have been justified through faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ through whom we have gained access into this grace..."Therefore, "getting saved" is very simple, although it may be the hardest thing you will ever do. Just place our trust in Jesus and give your life to God. Actively determine to believe (place trust) in Jesus and his sacrafice on the corss, God's expression of solidarity with humanity.

C. The formula.

It doesn't matter what formula you use, just pray, tell God you are sorry for your sins and you want to change and follow him, ask him to save you and to come into your life, and tell him you want to committ your life to Jesus. Don't formulate preconcieved notions about how you are suppossed to feel, just try to be sensative to how you do feel. Read and study the Bible and find a chruch where you feel at home and where they beleive the Bible. It is important to develop freindships with believers, but don't burn your books, don't become obligated to obey some preacher man in everything he would tell you, if a group insists that you need their particuarl group to be saved, or if they impose a bunch of rules don't stay with them. God will convict you about what you need to change. Just try to be open to him. Of course some things are obvious, stop sinning try to be good to peole and spread the word about what Jesus is doing in your life.B. Personal TestamonyI Hesitate to give my "testimony" because it's private, and I don't want skeptics trying to disect it, and also becasue all conversions are different, most aren't dramatic, and I don't want people expecting that if they pray to be saved the same things will happen to them that happened to me. It is different for everyone, God taylor makes conversions special for each individual. But it does seem logical to at least mention it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Answering Typical Athiest Misconceptions About Belief in God: for Bill Walker


Poster Bill Walker on my other blog (Atheist Watch) has this to say:

First let's set the context. I had written a piece answering a blog article which was directed at Atheist Watch. The article featured atheists writing in and saying "I am not full of hate, atheism is not a hate group." I was correcting their misconceptions about what I mean by the mission of atheist what "to expose hate group atheism."

to wit:
I have said from day one of this blog that I a not claiming that all atheists are like this. There is a fundamentalist end of the atheist spectrum that fits the profile of a hate group (see the post on this blog). That is segment is growing and is probably fueled by the internet.

that leads a commenter to say assert this (Bills Walker's first comment):

We Atheists are not a HATE group. We are a HATED group. This is because we have been vilified from countless pulpits. We are not 'customers'. We hav put behind us ALL of the primitive tribal gods created by our primitive ancestors.The HATERS still believe in one or a few. Don't hate them, feel sorry for them.
part of my answer included this:


but nevertheless if I had proof there was no god would still talk about God as though I believed in him because it's better than being a cynical moron who closes off possibilities of life for a narrow minded number cruncher ideology.

But that's not gonna happen because God is real and you are merely missing the boat. you are missing joy you could have because you are foolish. You want to rebel against Daddy and you let that keep you from truth. For the sake of childish rebellion you miss what's there for you.

Then he makes the statement I will respond to here:

Bill Walker (the main statment I'm responding to):

It is not possible to prove a negative. I can't even prove there is no Santa Claus. Common sense, logic intelligence, education etc. all tell me there is no Santa Claus, the same thing tells me there's no god. Question : What do you think would be your religious beliefs had you been born to Muslim parents in the Middle East ?

Now, it's not that this is so profound or different from anything I hear all the time. In fact I'm responding in a special blog spot not because it's such an amazing and different kind of statment, But because it' rather typical (no offense to Mr. Walker). It embodies many of the assumptions that atheits make that I want to get under and dislodge. I'm answering it becuse it's the sort of I hear from atheists all the time.

The first idea that he puts forth which I want to answer is this:

It is not possible to prove a negative. I can't even prove there is no Santa Claus.
He actually has this backwards. This is the Christian's line. He has asserted that belief is outmoded and he somehow knows it. It is therefore his burden of proof to show how he knows to that. I say "you have no real evdience that would prove that" he trys to shift the burden to me by saying "well no one could prove it therefore it's not reasonable to expect me go." But that must means it's not reasonable for you to aruge it. IF you can't prove it conclusively you have to at least give a very strong indication based probability or a strong indciement of belief in some sense. You can't slough it off on the believer to defend belief having merely put it out that you think belief is unjustified but you don't tell us why. Then of course his comments are non responsive becasue I intimated that I believe because of the effects of belief upon my life. That's my reason for believing, he gives no indication as to why that is inadqueate. Given the fact that he advanced the argument about the nature of belie it is certinly his burden to at least a reason why he feels that way.

Here's his attempt to do that:

Common sense, logic intelligence, education etc. all tell me there is no Santa Claus, the same thing tells me there's no god. Question :

Wait a minute. Logic, intelligence and education don't tell you there is no Santa Clause, at least not up frong. First before those things weigh in (due to the average age) most people usually abandon belief in Santa because their first suspicions about the belief are met with the stark confession that "yea, no one over the age of ten believes in Santa (and very few that old)." We all know it' s a put up job, we are just playing a joke on little kinds because we think it's fun.So no one takes Santa seriously, at least no with permeate teeth. Such is not the case with belief in God. My parents told me about Santa but when I turned three years old I immediately began to suspect that something was up and they didn't make attempt to hid the hoax once I voiced my suspicions. I asked my Grandmother, she said "If I give you a present I am your Santa." I said "I will take that as a no." (meaning no Santa). She just shrugged and went on planting bulbs.

I never felt that way about God because I felt the presence of god when I was four years old. I had the kind of mystical experiences I had wen I became "born again" so I knew God was real. My parents truly believed God was real. That was a totally different thing then Santa Clause. I never felt the presence of Santa, although on Christmas I have always felt a sens of love. But that's God not Santa. So the idea that God is just a more serious version of the same thing is unfounded and meaningless because the two are not analogous at all. It is somewhat likley that the idea of Santa Clause have been influenced by ideas of God but not the other way around. Santa didnt' really exist as such until very late in Western cutlure (his myth really got going as late as the nineteenth century). He was a composit figure based upon a lot of little European spirits of the season: Father Christmas (Briton), Black Peter (Holland), Sender Clause (Holland, Scandinavia) There's an Irish guy, father winter in Russia, Obufona (who is a woman) in Italy. These are all pagan gift giving spirits associated with the winter Soltace.

It may be possible that the idea of gods was influenced similar notions from the distant past. This is so because God is not a big man in the sky. The true concept of God in Christianity is that God is actually being itself not "a being." Where God tells Moses "I am that I am" this is translated as "I am begin itself" in the LXX (see Exodus 3:11). We experience god at the mystical level, beyond words, thoughts and images. We have to load those experinces into cultural constructs in order to talk about them. Thus we create religious ideas analogically and metaphorically in order to have conversation about them. The concept of God as a big man in the sky is probably related to the same process by which numina (household spirits of home and harth) were translated into gift giving holiday elves and then into an advertising symbol for a major soft drink.

This in no ways negates the concept of the divine as a clear and present reality int he lives of about six billion or more people on earth (90%). About 5% "don't know" and 3-4% actually claim some justification for asserting that no such deity exists. But the concept of "the divine" need not be anthropomorphic, conscious (although it can be) or place din the category of "a big man in the sky). The concept of God progresses and keeps pace with modern aspirations and understanding. Thus it is not analogus to compare belief in God to primative tribal gods.

finally there are tons of good reasons to belive in God. many of these have been formulated into arguments for the existence of God. I urge to read my list (the arguments I've tried to fasion) be sure and read the Prologomina to God arguments first. Without that you are bound to take them wrong and not understand them.

Some of my favorites include:

Argument from Cosmolgoical Necessity

Fire in the Equasions

Argument from Religious Experince

Thomas Reid Argument

The Feeling of Utter Dependence

Ground of Being

Trnascendental Signifier (not to be confussed with "TAG")

It is also important to understand why we don't God arguments. I have tried to develop a new approach that frees us form the bickering and unfinished aspect of the God argument, and that indicates the a priori nature of divine reality. For that the TS argument (see above) would be very important to read first. There are several articles I've done for the blog: The real reasons for belief,

Realizing God,

On my Realizing God appraoch

Existential Ontology part 1

Existential Ontology Part 2

One important concept to understand is that atheists tend to think that making an argument for God means that one is trying to assert an unfounded notion first then make up a reason to accept it having already committed to it for no reason. Part of the reason for this is the bastardized verion of faith that atheists use. Atheists impose a non theological understanding of faith when they arbitrarliy say it means "believe soemthing without evidence." Obviously believers have "evidence" in the form of reasons. Arguments are merely an attepmt to expalin a process that originates deep in the pyche and bypasses words and understanding, to people to whom we cannot lend our experinces. I can't make Bill Walker feel what I feel when I sense the presence of God. So all I can do is tell him reasons that construct of bits and pieces of my understanding in an attempt to influence him into seeking God on his own. But the average atheist takes this as the totally reason for belief and assumes that it comes after an irrational commitment made for some sperious reason. But arguments are extracted from phenomenological apprehensions which are the true basis of faith: given that they are existential in nature and pretian to our basic working epistemology as sentient beings, the true basis of fatih is valid as any reaosn can be. Thus the concept of God is already a commitment before the arguement is contrducted.

Atheist try to do it the other way around. They assume that belief is complied based upon arguments and that those arguments come after a shallow and irrational blip that 'causes' bleief as some aspect of a flawed psychological mechanism. Here the atheist stoops to a fallacious bit of reasoning that I have seen them work a hundred times: "you can't make an argument until you prove the argument." That is, they will argue that making an argument demonstrates that the concept of God is not based upon solid reasoning becasue if it was we would be able to prove the arguement before we make it. Conversely they will ague then that all God arguments assert the existence of God before they prove them. This is nothing more than a failure to understand what arguments are. All argumentation attempt to demonstrate by formal logic the nature of a prosition. Arguments are not scientific experiments where the object of proof can be demonstrated empirically. Even empirically based arguments have to present the argument fore any proof is discussed. This is just the logic works and it's common sense. It would be stupid to insist that an argument, destined to be the proof for proposition X, but be proved before Propositno X can be presented. That's just confusing emprical experimental resutls with logical proof.

If the arugment is the proof how can you prove the argument without making the argument? That's an illogical recursion that I see atheists devle into all the time. When Walker asserts that "education" tells him there is no God just as there is no Santa, that is totally irrational. Educatino tells me there is a God. He's already stipulated that you can't prove "there is no God" (can't prove the lack of God). So all you can 'prove' is the likihood, probablity, or the unreasonableness of a proption. But he never atteampts and I can tell you know he can't. There is no argument fo rthe unliklihood or unreasonable nature of the God concept that can be pulled off.

Read the materials I offer above and you will see.

I wil present part 2 on this same blog in a couple of days. That will answer his final statment:

What do you think would be your religious beliefs had you been born to Muslim parents in the Middle East?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Announcement for Atheist Watch

In my latest article on atheist watch I show that the same organization that started the Jesus Project also started and runs skeptical Inquirer magazine. I think this is a good indictment of the biases of that project.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Answering Atheist Attacks Upon Religious Experience Studies


I have been touting several hundred studies on religious experience for some time now. The number varies because there are many studies and I have not seen most of them (or course since I can't go get 300 studies and read them all). I began using a ball park figure rounding it off at 300. That was 300 studies that show long term positive effects of religious experince ("mystical" experince). Then I found two sources that each went through a litany of studies show these positive effects. I counted the number in the two sources and lo, it was almost 300. So I counted more form a couple more sources it was 350.This was by combining the bibliographies of
Jayne Gackenback, Krishna Mohan, and Loukoff and Lu. I had to hammer in the concept because the tendency of atheists was to just ignore all those studies completely. Most of the time they would act like their opinions out weighed all the studies. There is a huge body of data that is good scientific data and confirms the greatness of religion. This is completely ignored by atheists so I had to hammer the idea home to them. Of course they still can't accept it so the became resentful.

One of the major things they did was spot the discrepancy between what I used to say "300" vs the new number 350. Well I'm just lying because there are two different numbers. It never dawned on them maybe I found more! Since the number is ball park anyway there are a good deal more I could include. I could probably get it up to about 2000 without damaging the truth too much; that would include studies on religious participation and physical health, these are not included in the 350. Lukoff and Lu found a thousand entries for studies that mention mystical experience (and that was way back in the 80s), they narrowed that down to a hundred maybe, or maybe 50 for their literature search. That was the early 80s so have been a lot more sense then, but a large portion of those would have been non applicable because they used of one the early search engines and they weren't very refined. In College debate we used an even earlier version (1977). Looking for things on ultrasound as medical diagnostic tool (it was pretty new then) and got stuff on the sexual tendencies of flat worms.

Be that as it may, the atheist attacks upon these studies have remained pathetic. of course we are dealing with people on message boards, so we run the gamut of who is out there. Some on CARM have attacked my studies in my absence. Since I wont post there anymore, it's safe to attack them. Their attacks are confined to non methodological knit picking. They do not present valid scientific criticisms about the nature of the science involved. The major stock issues that one would use in attacking social science studies would be arguments about replication, sample size, data base, randomness of the sample, representativeness of the data base or the sample, as well as arguments about controls and double blinding. None of this has ever been advanced. Nor has any atheist ever bothered to look up one of these studies. Now in this latest round one tried to do that and upon not finding a certain one on a certain search engine just gave up and assumes they are all bad. Atheists tend to treat these studies as though they are all one study. There's this one group of studies called 'the 350 studies' so that if one is bad they are all bad. If they can't find one then none of them exist. These are not valid approaches. There are not just 350 studies, that's the number of the ones' I've either found. Attacks upon the bibliography and the one compiling it (Gackenback) are not valid methodological attacks. Some studies are better than others, so some of the 350 might suck, that doesn't' mean all 350 studies are not good. Another trick they have played is to attack Gackenback's bibliography (the studies are bad because they are listed in a bad bibliography) based upon other sources listed in it. For example, she sites De pock Chopra. They don't even bother to find out why she sites him. She might be saying he's a complete idiot for all they know, they just indulge in classic guilt by association and conclude that because she quotes Chopra and Hood, then Hood must be in the same league Chopra.

So let's move into the specific arguments in this last round:

phoenix702 (on CARM)

Metacrock relies on some less than credible sources
Metacrock is always talking about his "350 studies" as empirical evidence, but many of them are most definitely NOT "empirical" and of low quality. Let me post this another thread on Meta's sources....

Of course he's judging their "low quality" by the fact he could not find a couple on the only social science search engine he bothered to look for. He has no concept of how many of the 350 are good or not good. But 350 is a lot of studies. Air Bags were determined to be valuable and began to be put on cars on the basis of just three studies. 350 is a lot of studies. If only a few are really good that's all that matters.

Btw I could not find studies by Abraham Maslow, C Wright Mills, Warner and Withers, or the All state Air Bag study on that same search engine. So it failed to turn up some of the major thinkers in the social science field, or any of the three studies that established air bags as valid. Moreover, you have to be a member to use the index. So is Phoenix a member? Or did he just put the title int he search box on the topright corner of the home page? If that's all he did then he wont get anything, that's not how you use the index. You can't just start using it. What he's really complaining about though, when you boil it down is that these studies are not in JAMA or NEJM because those are the kind of sources you get on SSCI. But they don't index psychology articles, and especially not psychology of religion articles.

Now here's an interesting acid test. show me some of the big atheist studies on that sight? Can you show me Zukerman's study indexed in SSCI? I don't think so. But most atheists have no trouble accepting Zucerman as scientific (even though most sociologists do have trouble accepting his crap as scientific).

SSCI is not the only index and it's not the only social science index. It is not Social Science Abstracts and there's also Wilson Social Abstracts and a couple of others, Psych Info.

then he quotes me to set up the basis for attacking Gackenbak's bibliography:

Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
I found 50 more since I first started saying 300.

I first started using that figure about three years ago.

You can count the core list yourself if you wish. Look at the Gackenback bib and the Mohan bib. those two together. make up a huge chunk.
50 more?! Like Gackenback? I've looked at just her "bib" that you are flogging here as evidence and I've got to tell you if that additional 50 is of the same quality as the Gackenback "bib", the you haven't got much.
Then he responds:

Phoenix: Since you have posted these studies and refer to them multiple times in your posts, let's look at them. One good indication of the quality of the work is where it is published and very little of what you list comes from peer-reviewed, quality SSCI (Social Science Citation Index) journals.
First, he doesn't prove the Scottish journal is not peer reviewed. It is far from the case that all valid peer reviewed journals are indexed in SSCI. So just its' not theer, if in indeed it is not, doesn't mean its' a bad journal. What matters is not the pretige of the journal the study appears in, but the methology of the study. Most of the studies that I refer to are coming fromgood journals and they are peer reviewed. Two of the major sources in the early days (80's) were from Journal of Trans personal psychology. That is clearly one of the major journals in the field of psychology of religion. Wuthnow (who did the first rigorous methodological procedure for such a study) was published in that journal. Nobel (who was lauded for her huge data based--at the time huge, 2,400) was published in The Counseling Psychiratrist..

The Journal of transpersonal psychology lists as it's Indexing:

The Journal is Abstracted and/or Indexed in: Psychology Abstracts, International Bibliography of Periodical Literature, International Bibliography of Book Reviews, Mental Health Abstracts, Psychological Reader's Guide, Current Contents / Social & Behavioral Sciences, Social Sciences Citation Index, Contenta Relgionum

See that source emboldened in Red? Thats' the Index in question that Penix thinks is the only valid one. It is indexed in there. It is also refereed. Then it says:

Board of Editors:
J.F. Bugental, Paul Clemens, Jack Engler, James Fadiman, Jorge Ferrer, Daniel Goleman, Elmer Green, Stanislav Grof, Herbert Guenther, Tobin Hart, Michael Hutton, Stanley Krippner, Lawrence LeShan, John Levy, David Loy, Francis G. Lu, David Lukoff, Michael Mahoney, Michael Murphy, Peter L. Nelson, Kaisa Puhakka, Huston Smith, Tonu Soidla, Charles T. Tart, Frances E. Vaughan, Miles Vich, Jenny Wade, Michael Washburn, John Welwood

Since I ran an academic journal I know that baord of editors is the board referees. That means it's a refeereed journal.

Gackenback accounts for less than half the 350 studies. Over one hundered are in Krina Mohan's bibliography. here is a swath of Mohan's bibliography. tell me what is wrong with these sources?

Adams, N. (1995). Spirituality, science and therapy. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 16 (4), 201-208.

Allman, L.S., Dela, R.O., Elins, D.N., & Weathers, R.S. (1992). Psychotherapists attitude towards mystical experiences. Psychotherapy, 29, 564-569.

Anson, O., Antonovskay, A., & Sagy, S. (1990). “Religiosity and well-being among retirees: A question of causality”. Behaviour, Health & Aging, 1, 85-87.

Atchley, R.C. (1997). “The subjective importance and being religious and its effects on health and morale 14 years later”. Journal of Aging Studies, 11, 131-141.

Ball, R.A & Goodyear, R.K. (1991). “Self-reported professional practices of Christian psychotherapists”. Journal of Psychology and Christianity. 10, 144-153.

Balodhi, J.P., Chowdhary, J.R. (1986). “Psychiatric concepts in Atharva Veda: A review”. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 28, 63-68.

Begley, S. (1998, July 20).Science finds God”. Newsweek, 132, 47-52.

Bergin, A.E. (1980). Psychotherapy and religious values. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 48, 95-105.

Bergin, A.E. (1983). “Religiosity and mental health: A critical reevaluation and meta analysis”. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 14, 170-184.

Bergin, A.E. (1991). “Values and Religious issues in Psychotherapy and mental health”. American Psychologist, 46, 394-403.

Bergin, A.E. & Payne, I.R. (1993).Proposed agenda for a spiritual strategy in personality and psychotherapy”, in E.L. Wothington, Jr. (Ed.). Psychotherapy and Religious Values, (pp. 243-260). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker.

Bhagawad Gita. (1905). Translation by Besant, A. & Das, B. London and Benares: Theological Publishing Society.

Blaine, B., Crocker, J. (1995). “Religiousness, and psychological well-being: Exploring social psychological mediators”. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 1031-1041.

Brown, L.B. (1994). The human side of prayer: The psychology of praying. Birmingham, AL: Religious Education Press.

Canda, E. (1988). “pirituality, religious diversity, and social work practice”. Social Casework: The Journal of Contemporary Social Work, 69 (4), 238-247.

Canda, E. (1995). “Existential family therapy: Using the concepts of Victor Frankl”. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 76, 451-452.

Caroll, S. (1993). “Spirituality and purpose in life in alcoholism recovery”. Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 54, 297-301.

Carlson,R. & Shield,B. (1989). Healers on Healing. Los Angels: Tarchet.

Chekola, M.G. (1975). The concept of happiness (Doctoral dissertation). University of Michigan. (1974). Dissertation Abstracts International, 35, 4609A.

Courtenary, B.C., Poon. L.W., Martin, P., & Clayton,G.M. (1992). “Religiostiy and adaptation in oldest-old”. International Journal of Aging & Human Development. 34, 47-46.

Culberson, C.E. (1977). A holistic view of joy in relation to psychotherapy derived from Lowen, Maslow, and Assagoli (Doctoral Dissertation). Dissertation Abstracts International, 38, 2853B.
He goes on:

I have a major problem with your strong reliance on Jayne Gackenback's unpublished, hence nonpeer-reviewed work (a literature review). Gackenback claims that, dreaming gets one in contact with the Vedic Consciousness. This kind of "I'm-A-True-Believer " rif should be a real red flag that her work on this topic is unreliable due to her bias. Samples of your heavy reliance on this very dubious source:

Strong reliance? I don't quote her as a study, except a couple of times, and I have the same information backed up by other studies as well. I used her bibliography. See this is the Bib attack I spoke of earlier. It's totally fallacious to think that because a source is on a bibliography with a bad source that somehow taints the good source. This is a foolish concept. But there's nothing wrong with Gackenback anyway, she's a fine researcher, but her main area is sleep research and that tends to be a bit on the edge. She does, therefore, have an association with some less than sterling publications. But this in no way impendges upon the sources she sites because she didn't' do the studies. I've done a mountain of research on this topic and I know what the major studies are. Her's was the first bibliography of the topic that I found. Bedsides all that she accounts for less than half of the studies. Her bib was done in 92, so most of her studies are old. But that doesn't make them bad because the same results have been coming in for four decades. Mohan contains almost half the sources and his bib starts about 92 and goes to 2004.

Then he tries to attack Gackenback herself, as though that means anything on her big must be bad.


The following taken from the Gackenback bib:

1. Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration. Unpublished paper 1992 by Jayne Gackenback.

Why are you using UNPUBLISHED work here?
I'm not, I'm using her bibliography. The publication of her article has nothing to do with the publication of the items on her bibliography. Don't you even know what a Bibliography is? Secondly, it is published, on her website. She has a degree, she's a professional researcher, she was the editor of a journal, so why doesn't her website count?

The is NOT scholarly (you're so fond of lambasting others for not being scholars that I find this tendency to cite this dubious kind of work and THEN claim that you have "empirical evidence" to be most ironic.
It's not unscholarly. What's unscholarly is to act like I'm quoting her when I'm only quoted sources she sites! Your just doing guilt by assocaition, that is not a valid methodological attack. Really none of the attacks he makes have anything to do with replication, representation, randomness, or control.

2. She cites Alexander (really fond of him, she is), but what is she citing? One book, two unpublished manuscripts, and two publications in The Lucidity Letter====>The Lucidity Letter, is a non-professional publication, hence non-peer reviewed==>Guess what, Gackenback is the past editor of this low-quality journal, and Alexander is her bud (more on why this is a problem).

Lucidy letter was a professional publication. It was not an academic publication. I'm sure you don't know the difference. Again, her quotations from Alexander do not make his study bad. that's really idiotic to think it does. Moreover, it's really fallacious to think that a book is NOT a scholarly source. Yes books are still valid scholarly sources. A study in a book is still a study. Studies in books can be peer reviewed, depending upon where it was published first. Alexander is a good source. It's not that uncommon for scholarly sources to quote unpublished material ether.

He gives this URL which is to Lucidity letter. I'm not sure why he sticks it out there.



Now let's look at her citation partner Alexander.He publishes in Modern Science and Vedic Science that is published by guess who, The Maharishi University of Management Press, another turn in the SAME circle of "True Believers" in Vedic Consciousness). What we have here is a citation circle (never a good sign) that you cite as support which consists mainly of an unpublished papers that reference other non-peer reviewed literature in a "I'm-A-True-Believer" citation circle.
Here's he's trying to pull a fast one. He's trying to just bully his way to making the reader accept the idea that Gackenback is just part of a littel circle of people who quote each other and site each other all the time. He has no proof of that. He's calls Alexander a citation partner but he doesn't show him citing her.He has one unpublished source form Alexander but the nextstudy by him is published.This is one study out of the pack (349, or so left to go). He's also deciding what a citation circle is by assuming that the Academy in India is going to opporate by the same procedures as ours or that they must be inferior because America is the onlky country that really knows science. He doesn't present any material to prove any problems with this source. He's just guessing. His assertion that I use Alexander as some kind of support is unfounded. He's in the mix of the 350 that doesnt' mean I've singled his stuff out as any particular support for anything.

3. Not only so we have a "I'm-A-True-Believer" citation circle, but she cites frauds like Deepak Chopra!. Really Meta, this is a serious source and we are to take someone who cites this snake-oil salesman as believable?
I've seen this before. Sheuses a bad source (do we know what she says about him? does she say he's good? we don't know) but that means all the sources she sites must also be bad. That's just plain stupid. Because the major studies like Wuthnow and Nobel and Lukoff are sites by the major people such as Hood. So this means nothing as a methodological attack. Nothing more than guilt by association. What are we really being asked to believe about Gackenback? Only that she found some good studies and some bad ones. That's not hard to believe. If the souce I site were not on her bib, had I not told the CARM idiots that there were there, they would never have known it. Then they would have no argument against the studies at all. Because notice: he still has not read a single study and has not made a single methodological argument of any one source.

4. Gackenbach now cites herself (round and round in this citation circle we go!).

that is not a citation circle. you need to learn more about social science research. Quoting herself is a total logical thing to do since she did studies. It has nothing to do with others quoting her. You can't show a single source that she quotes quoting her.

1. Gackenbach, J.I. & Moorecroft, W. (1987). Psychological content of "consciousness" during sleep in a TM subject. Lucidity Letter, 6(1), 29-36. b. Gackenbach, J.I. (1988). The psychological content of lucid dreams.
2. In J.I. Gackenbach & S.L. LaBerge (Eds.), Conscious mind, sleeping brain: Perspectives on lucid dreaming. NY: Plenum. (NOTE: The low-quality Lucidity Letter, again!)

5. Not content with these non-SSCI journals ( Lucidity Letter and Modern Science and Vedic Science), Gackenback also cites:

* the Journal of UFO Studies. (you've got to be kidding me...this is serious science!) (non-SSCI)

This is rich and hilarious. I've sen this stupid mistake made by atheists before. He wants you to think that Gackenback is an idiot because she quotes something about UFO studies. That mean she must believe in UFO's right? But since she is a sleep researcher she's quoting to show that there are similarities between waking dreams and UFO abduction descriptions. This was back in the late 80s or early 90s when that was not so well known. Rather than supporting belief in UFOs she is actually demonstrating the cause of abduction scenarios as waking dreams, meaning she's against UFO abduction. She has done the valid scholarly thing and quoted her source, she had quote a crazy source to show that the idea is crazy right? so what's wrong with that? Why does she quote that in the bib on religious experince? Does he read her article to find out what she says about it? No. He assumes that make her stupid.

He refers to a number of other Journals that are not on SSCI

* the Scottish Journal of Religious Studies (non-SSCI)
* the Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion ( non-SSCI).
* another non-SSCI journal, the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research
* The Journal of Transpersonal Pyschology (non-SSCI) that publishes papers from the likes of Ram Dass . {}
* a doctoral dissertation from the Dept. of Neuroscience of Human Consciousness, Maharishi International University (back to the citation circle)

*the Scottish Journal ceased publication in 1999, that would be a good reason why he can't find it indexed today. That doesn't prove it was bad just because it was put to bed.

* Journal for Scientific study of Religoin I think is the Journal that Zuckerman published in.
* Journal of The American Society for Psychical Research. He asserts it is not in SSCI (again remember it doesn't have to be indxed ther to be good or have good stuff in it, it can be peer reviewed and not be there). Let's look at the nature of the orgnaization that publishes the journal:

The American Society for Psychical Research is the oldest psychical research organization in the United States. For more than a century, the ASPR has supported the scientific investigation of extraordinary or as yet unexplained phenomena that have been called psychic or paranormal. The ASPR was founded in 1885 by a distinguished group of scholars who shared the courage and vision to explore the uncharted realms of human consciousness, among them renowned Harvard psychologist and Professor of Philosophy, William James.

The ASPR headquarters is located in New York City in an historical landmark building acquired by the Society with the generous support of benefactors, including physicist-inventor of the Xerox, Chester Carlson. In addition to laboratories and offices, the ASPR maintains a one-of-a-kind library and archive. This international collection contains rare books, case reports, letters and manuscripts that date back to the 1700's.

A pioneering organization with an international membership, the ASPR serves as a global information network for public and professional audiences. Through its publications and educational services it provides responsible information about relevant contemporary and historical research.

that certainly sounds like the kidn of journal that would have pretesigious peer reiviwed articles.
The journal describes itself this way: A quarterly scientific journal providing scholarly reports, research findings, discussions of implications and applications of psychic functioning, and book reviews. This is one of the core journals in the field.

They cannot make this claim and not be peer reiviewed.

All material submitted for publication should be sent as an email attachment, preferably in Microsoft Word, or alternately submitted in quadruplicate and typed or printed double-spaced. Tables, footnotes, and references should be in the form used in the Journal.

you do that when you have referees. that's one of the tell tail sings that they have them. why have four copies if they don't? They could not call themselves "one of the core journals in the feild" if they weren't. They would not be in business long if they worked that way.

*The Journal of Transpersonal Pyschology**

this guy has screwed himself with this one. I've already proved above that it is indexed in the SSCI. So when he says " (non-SSCI)" he's merely showing his incopotance. Then he says " that publishes papers from the likes of Ram Dass ." He sites this: {} But wait! that's not from the journal in question! tht's PBS the tv network. He's doing nothing to back up his lying claim that they publish Ram Dass (not that he demonstrates anything wrong with the guy) he does not prove that they do that he just asserts it. That is totally dishonest! He's demonstrating his ignorance and his dishonesty.

This is nothing more than ideological pandering. Most of these journals are find and he has no reasl reason for saying they aren;t. I don't know why we should expect a scottish journal to be in an American index. Ram Dass is a popularizer but that doesn't mean everything he doees is bad. He does have a major degree from an Ivy league university. He was invivled scientific work before he went native. This guy is just assumign that reilgoius structures have to square with secular academia or with western academia and they don't. I would consider Ram Dass to be half bakced. I always have.But that doesn't meany anything, because Gackenback quotes him and he is capbable of doing some good. Its' silly to judge acadmics in other countries by American standards. as though they don't have their own standardards.

again these are things Gackenback quotes, that doesn't mean the 350 studies are in this pile. He has not showen that one of these is from the same group.

6. Gackenbach, J.I. & Bosveld, J. (1989). Control your dreams. NY: Harper & Row
You identified her popular book as a serious academic work. A popular book is NOT a a serious academic work that one relies upon as evidence for ones case. (Gackenback also cites her own book in her work).
where did I do that? I said she's a serious sleep researcher. Just because she does a popular book that doesn't mean she's not. Many major academics have done popular things. Dr. MacFarland did a coffee table book on Japan and he was the major expert on the New Religions of Japan. This has nothing do to with her study on religious experince or on her bibliogrophy.

The point here is that there is a pattern to the stuff you cite and it is not a good one. The vast majority of them are a joke...unpublished, non-peer reviewed, from joke journals like the UFO rag, and/or as part of strongly-biased citation circle (so much for you "empircial evidence"). If this is a representative sample of what you have, I am totally underwhelmed. Why don't you try writing a paper yourself, using the sources you have cited on your web-site as evidence and see how far you get having it published in a reputable SSCI journal?

the pattern is the bald faced lie you are telling. The pattern is you are mining quotes. You're looking at the stuff that makes the case of guilt by association. none of the things you site have anything to do with the 350 studies. The studies youa re looking at deal with her sleep research. I don't know if you even have hold of the right bibliogrpahy. You are just playing game.s Taking things out of context and trying to make a big muddle. you don't know the schoalrly world well enough to discrn good from bad.

Now this is just a scan of the "Gackenback bib". I do hope that her work isn't typical of the rest of the now "350" (up from the "300" studies).

you have not yet proved that it's typical of even one of them. you haven not demontrated that one of them is the 350. You are doing nothing more than playing guilt by association.

Your 350 studies, if they are like the Gackenback lot in their quality, they are NOT going to come close to substantiating the claims you are trying to wringe for them, e.g., God as "co-determinant". Quantity is no substitute for quality.

now you are mixing two different concepts, the studies are not about the co-deteminate. that's from schleiermacher nto the studies. You don't know anything about quality. You are merely playing guilt by assocition. He learned the term "citation circle" so he wants to use it a lot.All he's done is to assault her bibliography and her working in other areas and trangential assocaitions that have nothing to do with the issue.

* What will you have left once one throws out the low quality stuff?

you have not yet demonstrated a single thing wrong with a single study. Logically since Gagenback only accounts for about 100 studies out of 350 then I would say 250 good studies are left that's assuming you just elinmate all of Gackenback for good measure (even though there's no reason to). 250 studie is a huge body of work. We don't need anywhere ner that many, remember Air bags were demonstrated with only three major studies.

* Will what you have left really support the sweeping assertions you are making with it? They don't now IMO (C&P "linky" to why I don't think so below) ({})
why are they sweeping? you have no concept of what they are based upon or what backs them up. Over all about 2000 studies show that religionis good for you. why is that such a amazing calim? only because you are brain washed. you are a zombie brainwashed by a hate group.

What I hope you see, Metacrock, if you read this, is WHY we are having problems with your claims. This is NOT an attempt to make you feel bad, attack your self-esteem, ridicule you or Christianity, etc.

this is not why you are having problems. it has nothing to do with the studies, and no one ever went to this much trouble before, not that you haven't done a totally pathetic job.

all he does is play guilt by association and go off on a tangent trying to build a list of criteria for validity that is not used in academic circles. the search engine he sites is not the only source of valid scientific work. Again he treats the whole 350 as though ti's one thing. If one study has a problem the whole thing is bad. the De Pok Chopra stuff and Ram Dass study he sites has nothing to do witht he 350 studies, they are not part of that batch. He's just more atheist stupidity not understanding how to do real social science work and using buzz words and half understood concepts. but they do not mount a single methodological attack.

a loot of his attacks have to do with things he doesn't like. he doesn't like religion so any research about meditaiton and dreams and things that strike him sas superntaural he automically dismisses as stupid and bad.

Remember also that he doesn't even look at or mention the Mohan bib, Lukoff, or Voyle, Wuthnow or Noble. so these account for well over half, maybe 2/3 of the studies I use. So he's only getting at a fraction of them. Most of the arguments he makes are guilt by association.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The Coward Austin Cline responds by email

Here's what he said:

Given how incoherent most of your original post was, and how ignorant you demonstrated yourself to be of what atheism is, it would be a waste of time to read anything more you might have to say on the topic.

O yea, well same you and more of it. ssssssstthththtthththt!

Gee the opportunist talking head is another Dawkins Know nothing. I'm so surprised. This is exactly what I predicted. I knew this guy was a phony from the beginning. Everything I've seen him write displays total ignorance. He's obviously never read much in the way of theology. He's one of those Dawkametnalists who thinks that if he just says theology is stupid then he doesn't have to bother to know anything about that which he criticizes.

in the old when people thought about things, we used to always figure it was the height of ignorance to criticize things we didn't know about. Dawkins has turned into a virtue. Talking head opportunist like Cline turn into a methodology.

A person who criticizes things he doesn't know about is called a fool. A person who criticizes things he doesn't know about and argues that he doesn't have to know about them because they must be stupid, is called "Dawkins."